W101 – The Corporation of Revolution
Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You
Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.
How does that make you feel?
Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.
Sometimes these assignments struggle their way out of the hat but once you see the ears you just know what you must do. For this assignment my interpretation may be a bit different but it is the right choice, I have no doubt. This is not about an event from childhood, or anything habitual. It’s not even anything I attended more than once, well not this specifically as I have attended other events of its kind. Anyway, this event became a tipping point in my life. It was not so much it that changed my view rather it’s how it unraveled that changed me. It is the unraveling that unveiled an ‘evil’ force. It was what I will call the corporation of revolution.
A decade or more ago – wow, how intense to say that – I was heard, seen, and known – at least in my circle 😉 – to be an activist of sorts. For some I was hardcore, for others I was just committed, nonetheless activism was a central theme in my life. I joined student groups, I interned, I took charge with intention and yet at times I was put in charge when all I was supposed to be was a volunteer. This time and these experiences were empowering, motivating, a little overwhelming, stressful, and exciting. Time and again it was intimidating. For one, my first several experiences standing in the Union in front of our student organization’s table, holding a clipboard, trying to stop people as they passed and get them to sign a petition to the forest department were without a doubt intimidating. I think just about every time I had to take a deep breath, ignore my rapid heartbeat and noxious butterflies, and just make it happen. When I see people doing this now, or heck even door to door solicitors, my compassion lights a small fire in my heart and I warm to the memory (no matter that I turn them away). I attended hours of meetings and wasn’t afraid to speak up. I wrote a proposal for one group’s new national campaign. Then I argued along with other regional chapters that the situation felt rigged, the campaign might as well have already been decided. (Won’t go into that…now.) Sometimes I think I didn’t do a lot, or better yet, I didn’t do enough; I could have, should have done more, but we won’t go into that either.
Over the course of a couple of years I attended conferences, events, protests, and marches for several different issues from the environment to drug policy to politics. I stood out in the middle of the day in the middle of campus by myself with a few, then several, then a dozen or so followers reading the statement from the organization (that all chapters were to be reading at that time) and one I had prepared myself into a bullhorn. In a way it was embarrassing because the turnout was hardly a success but I said I’d do it, I committed to it, and dammit I was there so there I went. A couple of people had driven four hours to attend, they were more disappointed in people for not showing up than they were with me, meanwhile I was disappointed in me and people. Lol. I went to Washington D.C. on more than one occasion, and I even went to New York during Christmas break. Once I was in charge of securing a bus and selling tickets to people to get them to our ‘event’ in D.C. We took the bus, but it was less than half full. To this day I am grateful for the people who supported me, who showed up even when we were such a small group, and yet to this day I am embarrassed to have supported this particular group’s efforts especially given the way it all went down in the end.
And there’s my cue… Even as my experience in the world of activism was fresh I was not new to blood in the hometown waters inflicted by one of our own. So when I joined this particular political organization I wasn’t exactly surprised but I was at times shocked. Previously I experienced being a volunteer who was suddenly thrust into a position of power whether or not I was even the best candidate; it seemed all that mattered was that I was in front of the train when it came down the tracks. Then, as I mentioned above, I witnessed what was (is) a national organization come apart from the inside during a regional conference. Each chapter in the region proposed a new national campaign but then it came down to a select group of people who would vote and decide darn near behind closed doors which campaign would win. There was really no debate, no group consensus when it came down to it, and many of us protested this method and argued the unfairness of it. In the end it seemed we really didn’t matter, I think we were mere pawns. So when I was approached by two members of this new group (different organization all together) and agreed to be a volunteer I wasn’t so surprised when I suddenly became the person who would create and organize a chapter at my school. One minute I just wanted to help out, another I’m running things. Now sure this could be considered an honor, something to be proud of, that is until you realize just how much is disorganized above you. There’s no doubt they used who they could for whatever they could, no doubt.
But we weren’t the only group who opposed the Bush Regime ;), there were at least two or three others in my town alone. One would think that at some point we should come together and combine forces for our various events, increase our numbers and thus our impact. I mean we’re on the same team, right? Turns out it’s not so simple when you’re part of the human race. No, no. Everyone had their own agenda and if we didn’t agree 100% on everything then working together was out of the picture. Two of the other groups were more established and composed mostly of older adults and yet they did not get along. One of said groups was happy to coordinate with my group/chapter but not so for the other, though we tried. Let the in-fighting begin. As these things go, that was not the worst of it.
With every week that passed I grew more discouraged with the organization I was a part of. I had marched with them, shouted, chanted, and listened; I brought my enthusiasm, let me tell you, I brought it. I met the people in charge, we shared our enthusiasm, I expressed my commitment. What a mistake on my part, but who would have thought that being committed to something would turn out to be worse once you shared it with the people who started that something?
They preached, gave vague answers, and solicited volunteers to come to New York to canvas, recruit and garner support from people and businesses. They asked that people come and stay for days, weeks, even a couple of months if you could. They said they would help volunteers who came out, not provide for everything, but enough. I could offer part of my winter break, and so I did. I flew out to New York and met up with the volunteers who were already there living in a house, eating, breathing and sleeping their volunteerism for the group. Some people had quit their jobs, put school on hold, to help out in this cause to fight the Bush Regime. I saw their dedication, I witnessed their commitment and belief in the cause. What I did not see was commitment or concern from the higher-ups for their loyal volunteers. They did not make sure to take care of their people, not at all. I arrived to find a house full of people disorganized, lacking in true direction, and without the proper materials to do the work they were there to do. To make matters worse the higher-ups were trying to raise $50,000 to put an ad in the Washington Post – which they did – meanwhile we – the measly volunteers – argued that there’s more efficient ways to use that money should they raise $50,000! For crying out loud, your volunteers don’t have food; they eat once a day and not because they want to! They didn’t have the paperwork or literature they needed, they weren’t even getting the necessary funds to make copies of fliers. It was a mess. I’m no savior, or super activist, but even I came in there and brought more order to the situation. Under my instruction and energy we went out made copies of fliers, gathered our materials, set routes and locations for each of us (or pairs) to visit. Then we did it. We took the subway to our destinations and canvassed the neighborhoods and went into businesses asking if they’d support us, could we put our fliers in their window? Sometimes I went around by myself, but that was my job. We did more in the several days or so I was there than the month before. The permanent volunteers were discouraged, disheartened, and angry. I felt bad for them because even as I remained a part of the group, I returned to my life and I wasn’t counting on those in charge to do right by me. I left angry.
Most of what we were doing was in preparation for our “main event”, our march/protest on Washington! Slowly but surely things leading up to the event crumbled, most of all it was morale. By the time that day arrived the New York volunteers mind as well have been working for themselves, in the end I wonder if they wish they had been more selfish, not selfless. I tried to hype up my less-than-half-full tour bus in preparation for the march and when we arrived in Washington D.C. I was ready. I stapled two signs back to back on my wooden stake and I tucked that thing down the back of my shirt and into my sports bra; I was literally a walking sign post. I thought it was fantastic, man was I fired up. 🙂 That part I remember with great enthusiasm but most of what followed when the march was over and I met up again with the permanent volunteers became my revelation that I was really a part of the corporation of revolution.
They were pissed, some of them very pissed. One such member had prepared a rap that he was given permission to perform on stage but it wasn’t long before it became evident they didn’t intend to let him perform. Instead they threw in a speaker who was a member of the communist party, which mind you was not so new because several of the “leaders” were members themselves they just claimed that such an agenda was not the agenda of the group, that just so happened to be their personal political affiliation. How stupid it sounds now; we believed them, we doubted and questioned, but we believed them. That was until that speaker took the stage, a speaker with an agenda we were not prepared for. A speaker with an agenda who had not been a member of the group and whose agenda was not supposed to be our own. So much of what the volunteers were told they’d be allowed to do and participate in just disappeared, faded into the cold rain that started to come down on us until the weather and threat of lightning cancelled the event. We, the people who did the ground work, the little guys, the volunteers, had been shunned in the end. Nothing went as planned because, as it turned out, they had something else planned all along.
From that moment on I was done. All those months I harassed my friends and their friends, insisting they not be complacent but take charge of their own futures and do something, now felt like a waste, an embarrassment. I told the “leaders” why I was upset and what I had a problem with but they tried to dismiss it all, play it off like some things just didn’t go as planned, issues with time and all of that B.S. I wasn’t having it though, their deception was out and I was done being their fool as were so many others. I quit the corporation of revolution. The World Didn’t Wait, and no one Drove Out the Bush Regime, they only drove out the people who really believed that they could make a difference. Sometimes people use noble causes to disguise their ugly motives and run other people over in the process.
I’ve not been an activist almost ever since. The world didn’t let me down, people showed me who they really are. At the end of the day I guess I should have just listened to Gandhi and worried about being the change I wished to see in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still hope and believe, I have faith in the good that is and can be done but I’m picking my battles more wisely and politics can… you get the picture. 😉